Category Archives: Bhutan

Bhutan: A Magical Kingdom

When I choose my travel destinations, I normally try to pick places that not many people know of, or that few have traveled to. Why? Because everyone always goes to the same places, the safer countries, those that are cheaper etc etc. But what about the other countries, those that are mysterious, or scary? More than this, I try to pick destinations I feel most attracted to, and yes this is normally for personal reasons or it depends on my mood, or the year I am having, or the activities that I am passionate about and want to do there.
I remember the first time I heard of Bhutan: it was probably around 2010. A a friend of mine traveled there to work and visit some friends. I remember to this day how fascinated she had been about the country and its people. As she told me about her trip and experiences in Bhutan, I had said to myself: one day, I will be going there.
And that day came sooner than I expected.
This little Himalayan country, with a population of 750,000 people, is unknown to many people still. When I told people I was going to Nepal and Bhutan, they would say: “Nepal and where? Where is that?”
Located north of India, near the Tibet border, the small country is nothing but magical and still has much to be explored. The landscape is beautiful and very green and everything that is cultivated is organic. The country is built according to the mountains, so you can see many temples and monasteries built into them. This means that the roads are winding, anyone with car sickness, bring your pills!
I felt like I was in a fairy tale, as our guide talked to us about kings and queens, monasteries and flying tigers. Here, there are no traffic lights, and barely any tourists.
One thing that is very important for the country is their culture’s preservation. The government has preserved certain traditions by applying certain codes that do so. For instance, traditional architecture is mandatory. All homes and buildings must follow the architecture that was established by royal degree in 1998. The small arched windows and wood carved doors painted by hand are absolutely beautiful.
As well, traditional clothing is mandatory when working in Bhutan or during formal occasions. If people are simply with their friends and family, they can dress as they please. The kira (women) and the gho (men) are from the 17th century and made from woven fabric.
Bhutan is also unique for its Gross National Happiness indicator. Government policies are implemented according to these four pillars:
– Good Governance
– Sustainable Socio-Economic Development
– Preservation and Promotion of Culture
– Environmental Conservation
Measuring people’s happiness, rather than gauging a country’s economic health, brings in a whole new way to see the world. Although most Bhutanese claim that they are happy, according to the UN, the country remains one of the poorest. I will always remember when we visited a typical 17th century home in a small village, and I asked my guide if the people living there were considered poor. He answered me: No, they are not poor. They have a house, and family, and food, and everything they really need.
Comments like these make us think and question what happiness really means in the 21st century. Are we ever satisfied with what we have instead, or are we always wanting or wishing for more?
Thinking of visiting Bhutan? Check out my previous post with everything you need to know.

Travel to Bhutan: what you need to know

After hydroelectricity, Bhutan’s second biggest income is tourism. Therefore, when you travel here, you are directly participating to the county’s economic growth.

The visa

Just to clarify: there is a daily price to be in Bhutan (200-270$ per person per day, depending on the season). At first, this price may seem outstanding, and of course, it makes for an expensive trip (backpacking not being allowed). But this daily tariff includes: your guide, driver, car, all meals, hotels (3-stars), and activities (some are extra, like rafting). In order to be able to obtain the visa, you must go through a Bhutanese travel agency and once you have organized your trip, they will apply for your visa.

The itinerary 

Firstly, determine how many days you want to be in Bhutan. Many travel agencies will have itinerary examples according to the amount of days you will be in the country. However, it is important you know what kind of traveller you are, and request your preferences to your travel agent so they can arrange them for you. In our case, we are very active and need hikes and outdoor activities and this was adjusted accordingly. If you are not used to having a guide with you when you travel, I suggested these types of activities so you don’t feel accompanied the whole time.

Keep an open mind

Bhutan is different from many places in the world in many ways. From their political system to the ways they preserve their culture, it is the sum of everything that make this place so special. Of course, some questions may arise and bring interesting debates. But keep an open mind, and be respectful as you challenge some of these questions with your guide. Eat with your hands, learn words like “hello” and “thank you” and always smile.

The Bumdra Trek

I read about this trek in the Lonely Planet and it was in the “off the beaten track” suggestions. Since we love trekking, and we didn’t have time for a 5 day trek in Bhutan, I thought this was a great option since it was one night and two days. The second day ends at the Tiger’s Nest monastery, one of Bhutan’s highlights. 

I will break down each day and give you the amount of kilometres we walked. The amount of time you walk per day depends on how in shape you are! 

Day 1: You start your walk in the morning and walk through beautiful forests. Enjoy the flowers and trees. You take a break for lunch by a small monastery and continue upwards to the base camp (located at 3800m). The camp had amazing food, beds, and views. 

Total upward elevation gained: 1200m 

Total amount of kilometres walked: 8km 

View of the camp from the small temple

Day 2: After breakfast, leave early in order to walk down the mountain. You will see several monasteries on your way down. And then, you get a spectacular view of the Tiger’s Nest monastery. What is special about this trek is that you can see the monastery from above, what others do not get to see. You walk down to Tiger’s Nest, visit the monastery early with little crowds, and then walk all the way down to the main entrance. 

Total amount of kilometres walked: 10km. 

A bird eye view of Tiger’s Nest
Things to bring (you don’t need much since it’s one night and you get a comfy and warm bed to sleep in)  

  • Trekking clothes (1 pant, 1 or 2 tshirts, 2 pairs of socks, hat)
  • Comfortable shoes or trekking boots 
  • Warm clothes and a rain jacket 
  • Camera and something to do (book, playing cards etc). 

If you enjoy nature, camping, and trekking, I DEFINITELY suggest this trek!

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